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Measure Z Revelations

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New Q&A added: November 6, 2006
See here: http://www.westlakerevelations.com/061106-MeasureZ.html
See Results Info: http://www.westlakerevelations.com/061107-MeasureZResults.html

Hello,

If you are interested in Measure Z, you may want to read on.

Some of you know me from White Oak Elementary, the Y, soccer or baseball -- or just around town. What you may remember about me is that I like to understand things, and I tend to dive into them until I understand them.

I was so frustrated with all the conflicting information on Measure Z, that I did exactly that. I read through parts of the EIR, yes/no on Z literature, spoke with yes/no campaign workers and supporters, and then I spoke to 3 of the 5 city council members, the Westlake Village City Traffic Engineer, and read through the impartial City Attorney documentation.

Personally, I see good reasons why people would vote yes or no on the measure -- as it all comes down to one's needs and perspectives.

For example, it's simply difficult for someone to argue with another person who just wants more office space in Westlake Village. Similarly, it's difficult to argue with someone who wants a full size hardware store close by.

These are both reasonable, and I think that we can all respect those points of view ... regardless of our own feelings.

I've taken the time to write up the information that I've found, and I thought I would share this information with anyone interested, doing whatever possible to avoid stating an opinion. My goal is simply to help disseminate information ... not sway your vote.

I've asked representatives from both the Yes and No camps to review this email for factual errors, and in the vein of avoiding opinions, I have integrated in their comments where there was factual basis.

I hope you find this useful, and you are welcome to forward to other people, particularly those that live in Westlake Village. It's ok for people to excerpt what I've written, so long as the link to the full text

http://www.westlakerevelations.com/061103-MeasureZ.html is included so that I'm not taken out of context.

This will be a VERY close election, and recent polls show that it could be
decided by just a few votes. I strongly encourage you to vote ...
regardless of your position.

Neil Ticktin
Westlake Village Resident


The below is organized by groups of questions/topics including:


  • Where is it?
  • "But isn't Home Depot/Expo going in?"
  • It's "bait and switch" for the Renaissance Development
  • What about the development behind the Lowe's?
  • Truck deliveries
  • What would an office building look like?
  • What would the Lowe's "Town Center" look like?
  • "We can have a park instead"
  • "We'll have cheap, fast food restaurants"
  • Approval Process
  • Day Laborers
  • Tax Revenue
  • Who is behind the campaigns?
  • Traffic


Where is it?

The 22-acre project site covered in Measure Z is at the eastern most end of Russell Ranch Road. To the north of it is HomeStore.com, and to the West of it is the new IDS office buildings.

It's best to drive over, or look at the aerial pictures, but in short, you cannot see this development from Lindero at all. Measure Z does provide for placing a 5'x7' signage (not a pole sign) at Lindero/Russell Ranch Road to direct people from Lindero to Lowe's.

   http://wlv.org/whats_new/election06.asp

"But isn't Home Depot/Expo going in?"

According to one city council member, Home Depot has a 45 year lease on the old Kmart building on Hampshire. They are in active conversations with the City of Thousand Oaks. An Expo center will not be going in as Home Depot is closing 1/3 of it's Expo stores nationwide and the media has reported that they will not be opening more:

I was able to confirm this with Home Depot's Corporate PR department as well: "Home Depot is not planning on opening any further EXPO stores at this time."

Home Depot came into possession of the rights to the old Kmart property when their parent corporation purchase all old K-Mart sites. So, while they did not specifically go and acquire this piece, it was part of a package of properties they acquired. I don't know whether they had the ability to choose which properties were on this list or not ... just that it was part of a bulk transaction.

It is very difficult to get anyone to go on record, but as for Home Depot going in, while it is possible, this does not appear to be likely. The old Kmart building is much smaller than Home Depot would need to open up the kind of store they want, and if they tear it down, they would lose all of their entitlements and would have to start over. Rumor has it that the City of Thousand Oaks would prefer a different type of use, such as a home for aged and such. At best, Home Depot going in faces tough issues, but it is no longer looking likely that this will be a Home Depot.

It's "bait and switch" for the Renaissance Development

It is definitely the case that when Renaissance was developed, the zoning all around it was quite different. Furthermore, any other development in the area also may have depended on the zoning not changing for this parcel. The City Council has repeatedly voted to change the zoning around them. The 4 Seasons, Calvary Church, Oaks Christian, and the Marriott, etc... are all examples of that. Is it fair to Renaissance owners? Some have said that it's a "bait and switch" on these homeowners. I leave that to you to decide.

Renaissance property values have approximately doubled in value since the Albertson's development went in next to them (along with most properties in California). So, the argument that property values would decline does not appear to be true, but beyond this single fact, I cannot find evidence one way or another.

Many speak of the traffic affecting Renaissance. It is the case that people from the northern part of Westlake Village, and from Oak Park, will likely drive by Renaissance. The bulk of the traffic will likely go through the southern part of Russell Ranch Road, by the Marriott and the new IDS buildings. In fact, Lowe's trucks are contractually obligated to go through this way (a no-brainer since that's the closer way from the freeway).

The northern most exit from the Lowe's parking lot will not allow for right turns (to go past Renaissance). You would have to go to the center of the parking lot, or the southern part to make a right turn and then head north, but cars will be able to go past Renaissance.

There is an office building (HomeStore.com) between the Lowe's project and Renaissance. You should make your own estimation as to whether noise would be a problem or not.

What about the development behind the Lowe's?

This area (Lake Lindero) is part of Agoura. According to city representatives, not a single complaint has been made to the city of Westlake Village by the city of Agoura nor the residents. The city of Agoura did request additional information from the City of Westlake Village, but ultimately did not object to the project. There's an approximately 125+ ft buffer (SCE easement), a sound wall, and a drop of 20 vertical feet that is in between Lowe's and those houses. The EIR says "there are no sensitive noise receptors directly adjacent to the proposed site."

Truck deliveries

Measure Z puts Lowe's hours at 6am-10pm M-Sat, and 7am-10pm Sun. This is an hour earlier than the proposal that the City Council deadlocked on. Trucks can only deliver during these hours BUT it is the case that a driver can get there early and sit in the parking lot and wait. So, it's up to you to determine whether you think that a driver will sit and wait, or time it as close as possible to the delivery times. The city says that if Lowe's (who owns all the trucks except for lumber and nursery) doesn't comply, they can "shut them down."

The typical route for a truck will be the 101 to Lindero off ramp, travel 1000 ft on Lindero, and then turn right onto Russell Ranch past the new Marriott, and IDS buildings to Lowe's. Trucks are specifically prohibited from traveling on the northern leg of Russell Ranch Road.

What would an office building look like?

The most likely possibility if Z does not pass is that an office building would be built. To be clear, there can be some additional retail such as restaurants, or light shopping, but this is not required by the entitlements, and has not proven out to be the case in prior developments. Next to Lowe's, this appears to be the thing that would be the most financial benefit to the developers. The land is already approved for use for an office building/retail that is 376,000 sq ft (compared to Lowe's development 230,000 which is mostly Lowe's).

The developer really has no serious obstacles in front of them to do an office building. To maximize their investment, the building would be 4 stories, and about 70 ft, with ample parking. At this time, there's no reason to believe that it would be any less a "box" than the Lowe's development. Given other office buildings that have been approved, it is likely to be more of a "box" with a flat roof line. It would be reasonable to assume, given the speed/ease of approval, that an office building would look much like other things approved (the IDS buildings, the Countrywide buildings, etc...)

Assuming the developer does the four floor office building, you will be able to see a bit more than the top 2 stories from the freeway. (it's a total of 70 ft or so).

A taller building may allow the developer more area for greenery on the 22-acres compared to Lowe's green belt along the southern edge of the property. That said, the property will still likely be a 90% office building/10% retail/restaurants.

Many buildings built in Westlake Village built to only 70% of the space approved in the entitlements, but the most recent buildings, including the IDS buildings have built to 100%.

What would the Lowe's "Town Center" look like?

You can see the proposed center at:

   http://www.towncenterwlv.com/renderings.htm

But let's be clear: The restaurants/retail are designed to hide the Lowe's behind it, and these drawings are designed to look very pretty. The Lowe's building is large, and comprises most of the development, with parking in front of it. There's a green belt along the southern edge. The Lowe's part of the building would be about 50 ft. high.

You'll be able to to see the top of Lowe's from the freeway. (it's a total of 50 ft or so).

The Lowe's center, because it is shorter and has a bigger footprint, is predominantly the Lowe's and parking lot with a strip of restaurants and retail lining Russell Ranch in front of it (and likely obscuring the view to Lowe's). The plans call for a foot print that is approximately 90% Lowes and parking/10% retail/restaurants.

"We can have a park instead"

No one is quite sure how this rumor got started, but there's simply no fact behind it. Lowe's owns the property now. If Z passes, we'll have Lowe's and the "Town Center" they talk about.

If Z does not pass, there is a possibility that we would have something other than an office building, but it is not likely. There is already a development agreement in place, and the conditions have already been negotiated. We know the maximum sq footage, the setback requirements, the height limit, and the parking requirements.

Furthermore, Lowe's has told the city that if the initiative does not pass, they could sell the land for a profit. They have two proposals in hand already, one of which is from Opus, who built the Farmer's building on Agoura Road.

While Opus has not formally made an application, Opus has already informally shown plans to the city of Westlake Village. But, since Lowe's is in front of\ them, they have not yet been considered. Most importantly, there is already an EIR on the building.

To understand the office space situation in Westlake Village, note that the IDS buildings were completely rented out before the windows were placed. And, around the corner, an office building sold a couple of years ago for more per sq ft than any other in the Conejo Valley.

Some people talk of a "third option". If Z does not pass, for the office building to NOT happen, the developer would have to forgo $3 million in fees/costs already paid to get the entitlements for the property. And, they would have to give up on the lucrative opportunity to build an office building and related retail/restaurants.

The current development agreement expires on April 30, 2008. The office building would not need to be completed at this time ... simply started by this time. Given the history of similar buildings in the area, this time frame is more than ample even if people drag their feet.

While there is always a minute possibility that an office building will not happen, the developers would give up a "sure thing" that will maximize their investment, and that's just not realistic.

"We'll have cheap, fast food restaurants"

Whether yes or no on Z, this is not going to happen. Both options specifically prohibit fast food and drive through restaurants. Yes on Z mandates that all the restaurants will have valet parking which some believe ensures that a higher quality restaurant will result. Since there have been several failures of major chains with discount restaurants in the area (Denny's and Cocoa's as examples), it's hard to imagine that these types of chains would try again especially with the mandate of providing valet parking.

The owner of the Daily Grill did testify in front of the city council saying that he would like to be part of this center, but there is no contract in place at this time.

To be clear, there is no evidence of any "pre-leasing" that has been done, so other than the above, we have no idea as to which restaurants will be in there.

Approval Process

Measure Z modifies the approval process that a development would typically go through in Westlake Village. That said, when you look at the overall process of obtaining entitlements through the city council, and compare them to the overall picture of the initiative we are voting on, they are essentially the same conditions. The two differences outlined in Z compared to what was submitted to the City Council are the color of the shopping carts, and that Lowe's can open one hour earlier. There are additional specific differences such as signage that our outlined in the measure, but would be handled separately had this continued through the normal city council process ... but the end result is essentially the same condition.

According to the City Attorney, more than 100 conditions must still be met for Lowe's construction. The impartial city attoryney appears to be the most even handed assessment of how much control the city would or wouldn't have.

Day Laborers

The City Attorney says that Lowe's would have to take reasonable measures to prevent day laborers from gathering. And, it gives the city the ability to require Lowe's to employ a private guard service to "prevent public nuisances from occurring."

We already have several places around the area where day laborers are. The above may give us better control of that issue, then again, it may not. It's certainly not a slam dunk.

Tax Revenue

Westlake Village is fortunate to be a city that is well off, and as a result, so long as our current tax base continues without change, we do not need to make a decision based on revenue. With that in mind, the office building will contribute an estimated $100,000 in tax revenue, while the Lowe's development would provided $750,000 annually as well as a one time contribution of $1,000,000 for infrastructure improvements, etc...

It is plausible that some of this tax revenue increase will be offset by other revenue decreases due to the the impact on competitive businesses for either of these developments. You need to make your own decision as to whether you think each of these developments would impact other businesses or not, and to what extent and whether that's a positive or negative impact.

Who is behind the campaigns?

Clearly, Lowe's spent a great deal of resources for the Yes campaign. Lowe's is a huge company, and if it passes, they would be part of the Westlake Village tax base.

The No campaign is financially supported by Lumber City which owns the DoIt! Center. Lumber City's owner is not a resident of Westlake Village, and DoIt Centers are not part of the tax base.'

There are a number of people on both sides of this issue. The current city council voted on an application similar to Measure Z: 2 for it, 2 against it, and one abstention due to conflict of interest concerns, but that council person is a supporter.

Most, if not all, previous city council representatives are for Z. See http://www.towncenterwlv.com/calendar.htm for supporters.

Many people are against Z. The list is best seen at: http://www.savewestlakevillage.com/opposition/

Traffic

For many, this is the big one. The traffic engineers for the Environmental Impact Report, act conservatively. They assume that all trips are from someone's house to the office building or Lowe's. These are measure in car trips. You drive over there? You are 2 car trips -- there and back.

This does not focus on really any mitigation of trips. For example, you may go to the office building, or Lowe's via an already planned trip to Costco. Or, you may do a trip to Lowe's instead of DoIt Center. Or, you may go to a restaurant on Russell Ranch from Lowe's or the office building.

It also doesn't take into account WHERE the traffic is coming from ... Westlake Village, Oak Park, SF Valley, Camarillo, Simi, Agoura, TO, ... you need to make your own assessment as to whether traffic outside the community is more likely or not, and whether that's a good or bad thing.

The traffic engineers primarily focus on peak times being within the acceptable standards set by the city, as by definition, everything else would qualify. To us, that means rush hour in the AM and PM, and the most traffic we have in Westlake Village is at Lindero/101 with the majority of the traffic being from residents outside of Westlake Village.

Traffic is really more about perception than reality. For example, if you were traveling somewhere and it took 5 minutes and had no stops ... that would feel shorter than if it took 4 minutes with stops.

Car trips always represent very large numbers. Far more than most people expect, so let's try to put these into perspective against the traffic in the area right now.

Lowe's is 66,000 car trips per week. 21,000 of this is on the weekend when there is no peak traffic. 9,000 car trips during each weekday.

The office building is 4,200 car trips per weekday. Most of this is during the peak times of morning and afternoon rush hours.

Without a doubt, morning rush hour will be worse with an office building. The afternoon traffic is about the same between the two.

Weekend trips to Lowe's are far greater than the office building, but put in perspective, these numbers are still far below the peak traffic on Lindero during the week. In other words, they are much easier to absorb.

According to the city, the populations of Westlake Village swells to approximately 11,000 workers people during a week day. (Westlake Village's resident population is 8,905 according to the City of Westlake Village web site.) So, assuming about 3000 workers that are residents of Westlake Village, the city population approximately doubles with people coming into Westlake. And, the worker population is 3-4x.

With the Lowe's development, Lowe's reportedly estimates that over 90% of the customers will come from the Conejo Valley. About half of Westlake Village's homes are single family, and these are the ones that will more likely use Lowe's. 80% of Lowe's projected revenue is expected to come from the Calabassas, Agoura, Oak Park, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks.

An office building, based on the surrounding buildings, will likely house middle managers earning $50-70k/year. The experts say that someone in the upper end of this range, can afford a house in the $400-500k range. While there is some housing in this range in Westlake Village (reportedly hundreds of units below $500k), most property is priced higher.

For both Lowe's and the Office Building, you should make your own judgements as to whether you think that people will be coming from our local area, or from Camarillo/Simi/SF Valley.

All of this should be taken within the context that the busiest portion of Lindero ... between the 101 and Russell Ranch ... was at 47,000 car trips per day in Apr 2005 (when the study was done). It will already be more with Dole, Marriott, the Four Seasons, and the IDS office buildings which are yet to open.

In short, the traffic on Russell Ranch would increase substantially in terms of percentage, but because of it's current light numbers, it's not material. Compared to 2005, the traffic on Lindero would increase in fairly moderate terms -- about 3-5%. Lindero between Russell Ranch and TO Blvd would increase 13% (currently at 29,900 car trips/weekday).

If we focus on the bottlenecks, that's the 101 to Via Colinas part. And again here, that's about a 3-5% increase in traffic for Lowe's, and about a 1.5-2.5% increase for the office building ... but with AM rush hour being more severely impacted.

No matter what, the area between 101 and Via Colinas will get worse in the next year or two, regardless of what is voted on. They know what they need to do to make things better, but part of the problem is delays by Caltrans on the Lindero off ramp.

Furthermore, the rumor about "traffic light synchronization"? Not true. The lights were last synchronized in about 2000. But, two of the lights on Lindero are not currently on that system anyway since the Dole construction started. Synchronization should be done again (after the hotels/IDS buildings open) and should provide "meaningful, but not dramatic" differences in traffic.

That said, the city has recently replaced some troublesome cameras that control the traffic signals, but this just happened in the last week or so. In the end, they need to finish expanding Lindero with the free turning lanes, increase the size of Lindero/101 off ramps, and do traffic light synchronization.